Traditionally, it was thought that when artists sign up with big record labels, they would be able to advance their music career and become popular. That’s not anymore the case in today’s times. Indie artists have proven numerous times that they can keep up.
Chance the Rapper may be the biggest proof of that fact. The Chicago-born musician was able to bag a few Grammy awards in 2017, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Album, without selling physical copies of his music. His album ‘Coloring Book’ beat out Kanye West’s ‘The Life of Pablo’ and Drake’s ‘Views’, both of which were released by renowned music labels.
Last August, indie hip hop artist Young Dolph turned to Instagram to announce that he had turned down a $22 million contract. It sends a powerful message, considering the artist has always been open about his struggles of being an independent artist. See article here.
In reality, when one signs a deal with a major record label, there is no guarantee that an album will be released. There are many instances where albums were shelved for a variety of reasons. For instance, Sky Ferreira’s first album was pushed back for years because the record company criticized her music style and prioritized other artists.
There’s even the possibility of going bankrupt after an album release. When an album does well commercially, not all the profits go to the artists. Shares will go to the label, the manager, and other parties. Subtract the taxes, and artists may be left with less numbers than the sales their albums have made. As an example, because of a bad contract with their record label, girl group TLC had to file for bankruptcy 1996.
Since artists don’t have much control over where the money goes, it’s understandable why many prefer to go independent. Digital Music News pointed that indie labels outrank major labels in terms of market share. In 2017, indies collectively pulled a 32.2% market share in comparison with Universal Music Group, which earned 29.7%.
Furthermore, music fans now have better access to music from indie artists. The Music Site is just one example of the many ways indie artists can reach their audience. Music industry veteran Lee Parsons weighed in on the situation, stating that artists make a lot of money just from streaming. When musicians complain about royalties, it’s because of their contract with their labels. Independent music companies often do the same, except that they tend to allow artists to keep most of their revenue. Read what Lee had to say here.
Aside from streaming, there are many other ways artists can earn without relying on album sales. Aside from the usual gigs and band merchandise, musicians can also turn to modern methods, like licensing. Films, TV shows, and video games would often need background songs, hence they pay artists a licensing fee. There are also cases where an artist’s likeness is borrowed. Take a look at online games on Slot Source, where one can find titles dedicated to Guns N’ Roses and Jimi Hendrix. Not only are their songs heavily featured in the game-play, but their images are also used. Products like this mean bigger licensing fees. The deal can be beneficial for both parties, as artists may gain more fans and receive more praise for the work.
In this age where music is usually free, it’s not anymore enticing to be signed on to big record companies. Because of digital means and other useful methods, indie artists can earn just as much as other label-backed artists do.
Feature Image (Pexels)